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Men’s mental health: what to eat for a happier mind

| NOV 28, 2016

According to latest figures, nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience depression or anxiety.  Statistics show that men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women; it’s the leading cause of death in England and Wales for men aged between 20 and 34 years of age.  Despite these figures, women are diagnosed with depression much more than men.  Clearly, men just don’t like to talk about their feelings.

It’s a tough condition to talk about.  Depression can be a debilitating disease, which feels like a bottomless pit of suffering that’s never ending.  However, many people don’t realise that diagnosis does not mean you have to live with it for the rest of your life.  Recovery is possible.  Recent research shows that with the right nutrients and lifestyle measures in place, optimal health can be regained.  There are countless numbers of studies that show Omega 3, B vitamins such as B6, B9 & B12, probiotics and vitamin D can improve and prevent symptoms of low mood, anxiety and stress.

Benefits of Omega 3 for mental health

Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that we need to include in our diets as we cannot make it in our body.  It’s a vital nutrient for nerve conductivity in the brain and for regulating inflammation.  Depression is now being considered a symptom of chronic and systemic inflammation.  So much so that anti-inflammatory drugs commonly used for rheumatoid arthritis are now being used successfully in trials to treat depression.  There are stacks of clinical trails that show high doses of EPA from fish oil supplements are anti-inflammatory and can therefore support depression.  Oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, anchovies and herring are great sources too.

Rancid fats, like trans fats, are a no-go.  

Inflammatory foods to avoid


Photograph by Rachael Walker

To lower inflammation in the body, it’s a good idea to start with avoiding foods that are likely to cause it.  Refined sugars, pastries, cakes, biscuits, confectionery, fizzy drinks and processed foods are the usual culprits.  Rancid fats, like trans fats, are also a no-go.  You’ll find them in fried foods, margarines and most ready-made meals.

Green tea in place of coffee will still keep you alert but will ramp up your antioxidant intake, keeping your brain cells young and healthy. 

Men have different nutritional requirements than women and have a higher metabolic demand.  Therefore, it’s important that foods containing empty calories, i.e. poor in nutritional value, are replaced with healthier alternatives.  Simple swaps can make a world of difference.  For example, brown wholegrain bread is higher in B vitamins than white.  Lentils and beans are better alternatives to pasta for supporting a healthy gut flora, essential for a happy mind, and they’re much higher in fibre.  Green tea in place of coffee will still keep you alert but will ramp up your antioxidant intake, keeping your brain cells young and healthy.  Overall, aim for a well-balanced, wholesome diet containing good quality sources of fats included in oily fish, eggs, avocadoes, olive oil, nuts and seeds.

Food for the Brain is a charity that raises awareness of the importance of optimum nutrition in mental health.  They work to inform organisations and empower individuals to change their diet and lifestyle for greater control of their own mental health.  They also run a not-for-profit clinic, the Brain Bio Centre, to assist with mental health conditions.

Main photography by Simon Wijer.

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